Sunday, October 4, 2009
Arches and Canyonlands
Delicate Arch in Arches National Park (National Park Service photo).
Last week's PBS-Ken Burns series on the U.S. national parks, interminable as it sometimes seemed, has fired up the Lady Friend and me for another trip to see the nation's natural glories.
By Amtrak, of course. We're both rail buffs, and whenever we need to go somewhere and time isn't pressing, we'll take the train.
The two most obvious candidates for a train trip from Chicago to a national park are Glacier Park in Montana (via the Empire Builder over the old Great Northern's High Line) and the Grand Canyon (aboard the Southwest Chief along the old Santa Fe main to Los Angeles). We've done the former three times, the latter once.
So where to go? How about Rocky Mountain National Park (just north of Granby, Colorado, on the route of the California Zephyr over the old Denver & Rio Grande Western line to Salt Lake City)? That would be doable, but the Rockies, grand as they are, have become overly familiar to us. We need something new and different.
Aha! Just off the beaten path are the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in southeastern Utah, where the naturalist-writer Edward Abbey was once a park ranger and gathered notes for his celebrated Desert Solitaire. We've never seen the world-renowned high desert rock formations of the region, reputed to be heaven for the amateur photographer.
A little research reveals that we could take the California Zephyr (in sleeper, of course) to Denver and through the Rockies to Grand Junction, Colorado, where we'd stay overnight and rent a car for the two-hour road trip southwest along the Colorado River to Moab, Utah. We'd use a bed-and-breakfast in Moab as a base for day trips to the Arches and Canyonlands, driving in, parking, and hiking to the sights.
I'm a short-range hiker (two miles or less) owing to arthritic joints, but both parks feature several easy trails for gimpy geezers like me.
And so I've set to planning the journey, a task that's almost as much fun as actually taking the trip. More later.